Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House is currently enjoying a massive swack of literary attention and awards. This is good. This is as it should be. The book is amazing. It’s a rich and strange portrait of boyish adolescence. It’s about Star Trek, the awesomeness of Worf, and how reaching adulthood often requires imitating Captain Jean Luc Picard. It’s about ghosts that aren’t necessarily the ghosts of the dead. It’s about rez life and rez law. But over and around all other subjects and concerns, the book chronicles the aftermath of sexual assault. It also dramatizes the impossible legal tangle of that aftermath, given that reservation law could not prosecute non-Native perpetrators.
Novels usually disavow any connection to reality. The fine print reminds us that “this is a work of fiction.” But check out Erdrich’s version of that disclaimer, typed up at the end: “The events in this book are loosely based on so many different cases, reports, and stories that the outcome is pure fiction.”
Go back and read that sentence again. It handles its rhetoric like a kung-fu master, moving almost too fast to see. “This story is made-up. And yet it did happen in one way or another, over and over again, in so many different cases. And it is still happening. All of this is fiction. All of this is true.”
Now we need to talk about politics and current events.
The Tribal Law and Order Act, passed in 2010, did much to challenge the basic, fundamental injustice dramatized by The Round House: abuse and assault committed by non-Indians on reservation land became answerable to reservation law. A new provision in the Violence Against Women Act would do more. This is good. This is generations overdue. But the GOP is blocking the hell out of the Violence Against Women Act.
I’m not entirely comfortable posting about politics in a blog about kidlit, but we need to be talking about this. The Round House won the National Book Award, and yet I’ve seen zero press connecting the novel to the current struggle in the House and Senate.
Every other email asks us to call our reps for one reason or another. It’s exhausting, I know. But call your reps. Or write to them. Ask whether or not they support violent misogyny. Demand an explanation for their support of violent misogyny. Get the VAWA reauthorized. Honor the magnificent literary achievement of The Round House by answering the specific legal injustice it dramatizes. Because it’s still happening. All of it is fiction, and all of it is true.
My office is now backstage to a puppet theater. I suppose it always has been.
When they aren’t performing, puppets will live in this pirate chest just outside the door.
This will obviously lead to tremendous productivity. Why keep the door closed and write novels when I could open the door to put on puppet shows?
Please do not tell my editor about this.
In other news, the School Library Journal just published a long conversation between Gary D. Schmidt and myself. They also called me a mischief maker. I am extremely pleased.
Here’s a quote:
The giant mask comes from one of my favorite theatrical exercises, an especially useful one for children’s workshops. You get everybody to walk in a circle and give them vivid, impossible metaphors: “Walk like your feet weigh five hundred pounds. But you’re used to it. They always have. Now walk like your head is full of honey. Now walk like your hair is on fire, and always has been.” This is great for giving each character a distinct way of moving. One of those basic exercises is “Walk like a giant.” Some stand on tiptoe as soon as you say “giant,” but they shouldn’t. “You’re already a giant. You don’t need to stand on tiptoe. You are already very tall.” That’s a useful walk to learn. No one ever bothers you when you stand like a giant, no matter how tall you happen to be.
You can read the rest here.
Our local paper picked me as one of the Artists of the Year.
Here’s a radio interview with Write On! at KFAI. The audio is still streamable, but won’t be for much longer–though it will continue to travel through space and visit other worlds, along with everything else we’ve ever put on the radio.
Here’s another radio interview, this one with Here and Now at NPR.
Tomorrow my voice, reading my book, will go out into the world as physical CDs. Here’s the publisher page. There’s a streamable excerpt to help you decide whether or not you might enjoy listening to such an audiobook.
That’s all for now. Happy New Year, everybody. Our lives are stories that we tell both ourselves and the world, so I wish you good storytelling in the year to come.
I read at Wild Rumpus TONIGHT.
The previous sentence is intended to be read with Inigo Montoya’s accent. If you did not use said accent the first time, please go back and read it again.
If you wish me to personalize books tonight, please do contact the store beforehand and let them know.
On Tuesday I signed a whole bunch of books for Addendum in St. Paul, so I must add them to my list of excellent independent bookstores that carry signed books by me. They also organized my very first school visit and put me on stage in front of hundreds of kids. It was grand, and all of the kids made cards for me, and I’m still reading through them. I’ll post pictures soon…
First, a quick plug for local bookstores. I’ve just signed many, many copies of Goblin Secrets for Red Balloon, DreamHaven, and Uncle Hugo’s. If you think a signed copy of the book would make a nifty holiday present, these stores can accommodate you. And I’ll be signing at Wild Rumpus on Thursday if you need a personalized copy.
Now for an overdue post about the Goblin Secrets audiobook. Read more